Where the Gilets Don’t Go

ISOBEL PRITCHARD offers her advice on the best ways to spend the summer holiday.

advice gap-year gilet holiday summer travel

One Girton historian’s postgraduate plans:

‘I hear the babes are really hot in Afghanistan. I want to go live in a cave in the mountains for a year, proper get to know the country, live the life you know…’

Yeah, I’m sure the Taliban will fucking love the gilet.

This is the ‘gap yah’ phenomenon. That boastful, obnoxious tone your friend likes to adopt when telling you about his travels. That year out in which he ‘totally found himself’.  I’ve even heard a girl call it her ‘formative year’.  But, I think we are all beginning to question how profound an experience it can be when it is shared by a group of 20 from behind the window pane of a mini bus, or how valuable you really were to that remote school in India where you taught students English, with no teaching qualifications or language skills. 

As a child, I remember my mum telling me about her adventures as a young woman. Bravely going where no man (literally) had been before, she headed off on a train to, of all places: Belgium. Now, even inter-railing has lost its edge. You have to go sufficiently east in Europe to make any kind of impression. I find the rule of thumb is that if there hasn’t been a war there in the last 20 years, no one is going to be amazed by your valour.

We live in a new world. A world in which Thailand has become the Malia of the East, with Full Moon parties filled with drunk and drugged-up ex-private school students; where trekking up Kilimanjaro is all in a day’s work; and where jumping out of a plane in New Zealand is considered a walk in the park.

So, how can we possibly achieve that shock factor with our summer plans? Here, I offer some more interesting alternatives:

1. You could follow the dangerous route. You’ll score man points for a holiday in North Korea. Or a road trip along the Gaza strip. 

2. You could always choose the downright bizarre.  It’s possible to do a course in ‘stick and knife fighting’ in the Philippines, apparently. Your grandparents surely won’t be expecting that. Plus, you will pick up a transferable skill (which I hear employers love).

3. If you already have a talent, I suggest you use it. Although it’s been happening for hundreds of years, people are still pretty impressed when you sail across the Atlantic. Single handedly of course. It takes a much greater disposition to do it in solitude. Note ‘finding yourself’ is singular, not plural. A friend or crewmate will hinder your character development and obliterate any chance of soul searching. 

4. Other ideas: Climbing Everest? Bit standard now. Try it in a bikini. Curing lepers in Malawi? Try it underwater. Surfing in Mauritius? Forget the board; just grab a Great White instead. I hear erupting volcanoes provide a much better adrenaline rush than the standard valley for a bungee jump. Take the leap. Or maybe Daddy will help you out with paying for a little space travel. However, I will warn you that currently it will set you back about $30 million dollars.

5. There are also great employment opportunities to be had. How about working as a kissogram in Dubai? Forget Camp America, I’m thinking White House America.

So, you just need to think outside the box in order to make your summer a just tad more exciting. At the very least, you will be equipped with the tools to wipe that smirk off your smug, gilet-wearing friend’s face. 

WARNING: This article takes no responsibility for any suggestions made. Any advice followed is done so at the individual’s own risk. You fool.